Trinity Three – Sunday July 7, 2019 — Are YOU CERTAIN that YOU will ENTER HEAVEN?
Sermon for Trinity Three – Sunday July 7, 2019
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
Hebrews 10:19–25 (NKJV)
19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Our Confidence and High Priest,
The Object of our Faith and Hope,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –
Are YOU CERTAIN that YOU will ENTER HEAVEN?
If I set up a table in front of the Post Office on Washington Street and asked this question, I expect that I would receive plenty of confident answers and a few less confident. I expect that there would also be a smattering of people who would say, “I don’t believe that there is a God or a heaven.”
We might be happy to hear someone say they are certain they will enter heaven, but we should probably follow that question up with a second:
WHY are YOU CERTAIN that YOU will ENTER HEAVEN?
I expect that the most common answer would be: “Well, because I’ve been a good person, better than most.” There might even be a few who say, “After some time in purgatory, I will go to heaven.” But, let me be honest. I don’t really care about the hypothetical answers of a hypothetical public. I want to know YOUR ANSWER. I’d like to think I know it already, but I want you to think about it and go home certain of it.
WHY can I be CERTAIN that I will ENTER HEAVEN?
If the answer to that question rests in any way upon yourself, then you have no honest reason to be certain that you will ENTER HEAVEN. If your certainty rises from Christ’s Life, Christ’s Death and Christ’s Resurrection…then even the Angels of Heaven will rejoice today.
Let us pray:
“Gracious Father in Heaven, you have been merciful to me and sent Your own Son to purchase my release from sin, from death and from the power of the devil. Lord Jesus, you have come that I may have life and live it to the full. Holy Spirit, you have planted the seed of faith in my heart and have been watering and fertilizing it by Your Word. I n your mercy, I have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. I am often overwhelmed by the steady shower of spiritual and material blessings that flow to me from your great goodness. Still, because of my sinful nature I harbor doubts and fears. I misinterpret the evils of this world as evidence that your heart toward me has somehow changed. Lead me back to Your Word. Grant me a heart so grateful that I am not content merely to enjoy your blessings, but that as an expression of my thanks, I may share those gifts to enrich the lives of others and help meet their needs. In Jesus’ Name and to His Glory I ask. Amen.
The Letter to the Hebrews was written to scattered Israelites who trusted in Jesus of Nazareth, that He was the long promised Chosen One of God. There is evidence in the letter that they were being told to return to the old ways and the old religion of Judaism.
The Holy Spirit instructed the writer to urge them not to drift away from Christ. For while He humbled himself and became ‘a little lower than the angels’, He is the Son of the Highest, far surpassing the angels in glory and honor. He declared the Christ greater and more faithful than Moses, through whom the first covenant of the Law had been given. He declared Christ greater than the Old Testament Priest and His Sacrifice all sufficient. He declared that the new covenant of God rests upon the sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God. If they turned from Him, they turned to the inferior.
There are not many ways to heaven and many paths…but one way, a new and living way…not dependent upon our obedience or sacrifice, but upon the Greatest of All:
19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,
The Holy Spirit speaks to them and to us with compassion, calling us brethren. We have boldness, confidence to enter into the Holiest Place of all – Heaven – because by means of His Blood, He has opened a new and living way to Heaven.
There is potential for confusion here because of the terms used. The expression ‘enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus’ and ‘a new and living way which He consecrated for us through the veil’ just seems odd to us.
Why didn’t the Holy Spirit say that Jesus has given us confidence to enter heaven by means of Jesus blood and sacrifice? He was writing to Israelites using a picture they would understand. This ‘new and living way’ was different than ‘the way it used to be.’
It used to be that only One Man on One Day could enter the Holiest Place in the Tabernacle and later Temple of God. On the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) only the High Priest could pass through the veil which hid the Holiest Place and the Ark of the Covenant. God promised to dwell there ‘between the cherubim’ on the cover of the Ark. The Veil was symbolic of sin, which separates sinful man from the presence of the Holy God.
Sin stands between us and God. It separates us from God, or at least it did, until Jesus gave His body into death and shed his blood to pay our sin debt. It isn’t historical footnote, but an exclamation of God that after Jesus died on the Cross, it is written (Mark 15:38, cf. also Matthew 27:51, Luke 23:45):
38 Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
It is the Blood of Jesus that gives us confidence that we will enter the Holiest Place of all, Heaven. Jesus has taken sin out of the way and opened a new and living way through the veil, that is His Flesh. As the veil in the temple was once the only means of entrance into the presence of God, so now there is one way, through Jesus’ flesh. Moreover, Jesus remains our High Priest, who intercedes for us and all the ‘House of God’ those who believe.
Thank you, Pastor! Heaven is mine! Hallelujah!
Is this where you say, “Amen?”
Well, there is more. While Jesus’ sacrifice is the reason that we are certain we will enter heaven and the presence of God…this Scripture doesn’t suggest we have to wait for that day to enter into a personal relationship with God. In fact, we are urged to draw near to God…now.
22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Our confidence in Christ is to be such that already now we draw near to God – in full assurance of faith.
How can I draw near to God in full assurance of faith? I’m a sinner. Every day I disobey God in one way or another, frequently in thought, in word and even in action. My faith seems to ebb and flow, sometimes I’m joyful and sometimes I’m unsure. I’m not sure I can draw near in full assurance of faith! Do you know what I mean?
We can draw near to God in full assurance of faith…but not because we are sinless…but because we are forgiven. Our hearts have been ‘sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.’
Once again, the terms used here seem confusing…sprinkled and washed?
It again pictures that Old Testament High Priest. He couldn’t just enter into God’s presence. He was a sinner and his sins had to be atoned for and his body washed. The High Priest was sprinkled with the blood of the Lord’s Altar to cleanse him of sin and guilt (cf. Exodus 29:21, Leviticus 8:30) because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (cf. Hebrews 9:22). The High Priest bathed with water and was cleansed of impurity.
We can draw near to God because our sins are covered in the blood of Jesus. We can draw near because we have been cleansed in the waters of Baptism and made God’s children and heirs. The writer to the Hebrews includes himself, saying, let US draw near.
But there is still more encouragement. We aren’t only urged to draw near to God, we are urged to hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering.
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,
for He who promised is faithful.
It sounds easy…but the reality is that it isn’t easy. Our enemy Satan lies in wait to deceive us. We live in a world in league with the Devil. We even have traitor within, a sinful nature, that is easily turned away from godliness. If we are left to our own devices we will turn away – don’t kid yourselves!
Our spiritual strength is not the deciding factor…it’s our faithful God. We are urged to hold fast ‘the confession of our hope’ which isn’t our subjective, personal beliefs, but those taught in the Scriptures – because the one who promised these things is faithful, is reliable.
The Car Salesman promises us the car will last…but He doesn’t really know. The furniture salesman assures us that the chair will last…but it may not. So many of the promises we are given depend upon something that is passing away.
The Promises of our God are reliable and will hold true and far surpass our expectations. We can hold fast our confession – not because it’s our subjective beliefs – but because the one who promises is 100% reliable 100% of the time.
Finally, we are urged to be doing one more thing…and it’s important. It’s something that we aren’t always so good at – myself included:
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
In this final admonition, we are urged literally ‘to keep our eye on one another.’ Now depending on your general attitude, you may think that this means we should keep our eye on one another – in case someone falls into sin or in order to point out and correct the mistakes we see in each other.
We are to do so in order to literally ‘stir up’ or ‘incite’ one another. Woah, that sounds bad. We are to keep an eye one each other with a goal of stirring up each other? We do that with family and fellow church members already! Which is why I ask you to carefully consider the goal, the reason we are to ‘keep an eye one each other’ and ‘what we are to stir one another up to do…
We are not to criticize and anger one another…but our goal is to stir up love and good works in one another. Love is that active living love of Jesus, that looks at a need and provides it without thought of ‘what’s in it for me.’ Good Works are deeds done in faith for Jesus, to glorify Him and not to be recognized by others. Are we encouraging each other to acts of love and to glorify Jesus? Do we take younger members under the arm and say, “Let’s serve the LORD together.”
It sounds like a good goal to actively set…don’t you think? After all, this isn’t my encouragement…it’s one that the Holy Spirit sets for us all.
How can we do that? How can we keep an eye on one another with the purpose of encouraging love and good works? Well, first of all, we need to keep seeing one another. There is both a negative and a positive answer.
We encourage one another spiritually by – not abandoning gathering together – especially for worship but also in other positive ways that build one another up.
We actively encourage one another – with Scripture – not trite sayings – and actively because we can see the writing on the wall, the Day of Judgment is coming. If that was true when these words were first written on animal parchment or pressed leaves…then it is even more urgent today.
Instead of opening your mouth to make a negative comment or to criticize…instead of only pointing out the mistakes of others…encourage each other with the Word of the LORD! Warn each other about sin. Help one another by praying for each other. The Day of the LORD is coming…and we are going to Heaven.
Are you going to Heaven? Why yes you are, because you trust that God has opened a new and living way by the body and blood of your Great High Priest! Be bold…to approach God now in prayer and worship; to hold tight to the promises of God in Christ and be meek and loving, watching out for and encouraging your fellow believers by gathering for worship and hearing the Word and using it to encourage one another.
The Day is Coming!